Rosa+&+Berry+Restaurant.jpgThe Rosa & Berry Tawada English Garden is truly a gem in Maibara, Shiga that should, undeniably, be experienced. The property boasts a café, two restaurants, gift & garden shops and offers many activities which are perfect for groups of all ages and sizes. I recently took a group tour of the property and it was an amazing experience. Upon arrival, the scenery was spectacular with its beautiful floral arrangements and the atmosphere was quite peaceful. I participated in the chopsticks making workshop and it was exciting to customize my own chopsticks. I am by no means an artist; but the staff were quite helpful and provided model chopsticks for inspiration. Upon completing my 'masterpiece', my group and I dined at Restaurant Daichi and their diverse menu items were exquisite.

Rosa+&+Berry+Chopsticks.jpg

The next leg of my group tour took me to the Samegai Trout Farm which is home to the endemic Biwamasu in Shiga. Since it was established in 1878, the farm had a serene and rustic feel which I adored. It was rather enjoyable to feed and even touch the fish in designated areas. The mini quiz pamphlet provided was a treat; and it was great to learn quick facts about the trout while collecting stamps along the way. I was also impressed that you have the option to catch your own fish and have it cooked for you.

Samegai+Trout+Farm.jpg

Overall, my tour was a great experience and it was wonderful to have participated in this event. Shiga has so much to offer and is a great area to explore with friends and family. I am eager to travel throughout the region and see what other hidden treasures await me. So my advice to anyone traveling to Japan: Come and discover Shiga, you will most certainly be pleased.

(Author : Kai Oliver, ALT Teacher)

The first plate of the night was this Ōmi beef-cold shabu shabu(sliced beef) with sesame sauce. As the first dish of the dinner, there was a lot of anticipation built up from this moment. Mouth watering and feeling famished, I took my first bite of the small brown part that is cut in three featured blow. An explosion of flavor set off every dopamine receptor in my brain. I am usually not a fan of cold meat dishes, but this culinary concoction may be the only exception to the rule.

1.jpg

The second small plate consisted of three other dishes ;marinéd miso Herring roe, beef tartare and steamed duck. The real selling point for me were the various textures of each small bite. The duck had a firm and meaty texture (I honestly thought it was beef). The tartare was body temperature and was succulent. A very delicate flavor that kept to the theme of the prior dish with the same sauce. The most interesting of all was the marinated roe. The roe had tons of little pearl-like eggs that popped playfully on my palate. In short, it was a very fun dish to eat!

2.jpg

Continuing on my devourment, Ōmi Beef with boiled vegetable for shabu shabu was next on my hit list. The broth had subtle flavors that did not overpower the star of the dish, the beef. I quickly finished this dish as I could see the chef beginning to prepare the steaks for the main course.

3.png

The soup for this season was actually made of flowers. I could smell a bit of the floral remnants so I expected it to have a grassy or floral flavor, however I was pleasantly surprised by the creamy texture the soup had! It was a bit heavier than I expected as well but not so heavy as to fill me up.

4.jpg

Ōmi beef steak. The reason to come. It did not disappoint. Order it medium rare. No spoilers on this one folks. It is one of those things that you must experience for yourself.

5.jpg

The rice dish of the set was beef curry over rice. Although small in terms of size, it was big on flavor. The curry itself was quite mellow and allowed me to appreciate the domestically grown rice for its high quality. It was a very simple dish that was executed very well.

6.jpg

The seasonal dessert was a strawberry shortcake. I am not huge into baked goods, but it was really the perfect compliment to an amazing meal. Great thanks to the chef and staff of Matsukiya.

7.jpg

Matsukiya in Otsu,Shiga

9 Courses of Blissful Enjoyment

Address: 14-17 Karahashicho, Otsu 520-0851, Shiga Prefecture TEL:+81 77-534-2901

(Author : Mr Deontae Deuce Griggs, Kansai Tourism Bureau)

Maibara; Shiga's Hidden Gems

IMG_3405SS.jpgLast week, along with two other expats we went on a tour of Maibara and try out making our own unique chopsticks, eat beautiful seasonal dishes and visit a trout farm tucked away in the forest's of Maibara.
We set off from Maibara station and headed towards our first stop, Rosa & Berry Tewada, an English Garden park. Though it's only accessible by car, it's definitely worth a visit. There are a wide variety of crafts and cooking workshops you can take, from making wind chimes and hats to cooking your own pizza in a wood fired oven!
I had the opportunity to make my own set of chopsticks. The workshop took about an hour and in the end I came away with a pair of cute chopsticks with a wood burned sheep design.
Feeling quite chuffed after making my sheep chopsticks, we then ate lunch at Daichi restaurant (located in the park grounds) to try out our handmade chopsticks.
It was an all-you-can eat restaurant serving delicious dishes made with locally grown vegetables, inclduding produce grown in Rosa & Berry Tewada's own vegetable patches. The lunch was delicious but for me the desserts were the highlight.I would go back just for the cherry chocolate mousse and the roasted green tea ice cream!
After lunch we headed towards our final tourist stop, Samegai Trout Farm. Surrounded by a tranquil forest, Samegai is the perfect location for a spot of fishing with guaranteed success.
One of the best parts about this place is that you can eat the fresh trout! Sprinkled with a generous amount of salt and grilled, fresh fish has never tasted better.
IMG_3447SS.jpg
You don't necessarily have to fish for yourself, ofcourse. There are several restaurants around the farm that serve fresh Biwa salmon, Rainbow trout and White-Spotted char.
Although I was still quite full from lunch, I still took a quick look at the menu and my mouth watered at the Biwa Salmon Kaiseki cuisine (a traditional multi-course Japanese meal).
I'll definitely be coming back here in the humid summer months to cool off by the clear streams at Samegai Trout Farm and maybe spot some fireflies in the evening!
Overall, I was surprised by the variety of activities and cuisine Maibara has to offer. I had a fantastic time! I would highly recommend these places to both travellers with families and those who seek something different on their journey in Japan. You are one rental car away from experiencing the best of Maibara!
(Author : Amy Vivian-Neal, ALT teacher)

Day Trip to Nagahama city

e.jpgWhen given the opportunity to take a trip to Nagahama for a day while studying abroad in Hikone, I knew immediately I had to go. Now, remembering the trip, I will make sure I visit Nagahama again in the future, as there are so much more things to see and do in the area than can fit in one day.

a.jpg

Many, if not all, regions in Japan have special meals or types of food that are considered special to the area. The first stop on our trip was to the restaurant Yokarou. There, we enjoyed somen noodles with mackerel. I was very impressed by the mild, savory flavor of the dish. The environment of the restaurant felt like a very significant cultural experience. From the screens dividing the rooms, to the traditional way we removed our shoes when we entered and sat on pillows on the floor, I felt like I was learning something new every second I spent at Yokarou.

f.jpg

Next, we visited the Kaiyodo Figure Museum. This was the part of the trip I was most excited for. As someone who loves miniatures and figures, as well as pop culture, this was a great place to explore. We saw many characters from cartoons, video games, and anime, as well as detailed animals and vehicles. My favorite item there was the many dinosaur figures on display. Another great thing about this museum is the huge collection of gachapon, or vending machines for capsule toys. We got to take home some complementary capsule toys, as well as some souvenirs I bought from the gift shop.

s.jpg

Lastly, we were lucky enough to view the 68th Nagahama Bonsai Exhibition of Ume Trees with Blossoms. The displays of numerous bonsai trees of all shapes and color made it impossible to not be amazed. I took dozens of pictures there. My favorite part about this location is the amazing smell that the trees create within the building. We were very lucky to participate in this event, as the trees only blossom within a very short time span around February.

IMG_3129.jpg

Overall, the city of Nagahama was a great place to walk around for the day. The shops are very open and welcoming to customers, and there are many souvenirs to choose from. I indulged and bought some strawberry daifuku. I shared them with my roommate, and they were an amazing way to remember my trip.

Author : Talia Pulliam

c.jpgUpon arriving in Nagahama after a scenic drive along the lake, we went to a restaurant called Yokarou that serves local Nagahama food. The inside was set up like a traditional Japanese building, so we took our shoes off and walked around in our socks. Our table was upstairs in a room lined with screens of Japanese art. We were served mackerel on top of somen noodles, a local specialty, along with some sides and green tea. It tasted really good.

h.jpg

Next, we made our way to the Kaiyodo Figure Museum. This was the highlight of the trip for me. The museum has figures for almost everything--anime, video games, manga, movies, and miscellaneous things, like animals and artistic works not connected to media. I was surprised and very happy to find a figure of the xenomorph from the Alien movie series, as it was something I was looking for in the museum but not expecting to actually find. This museum is especially good for people who enjoy Japanese anime and manga, as a large portion of the museum is filled with those. There's a lot of Evangelion figures, like a life-sized Ayanami Rei that I got a picture with. I wholeheartedly feel that everyone interested in Japanese media can find something that speaks to them in this museum, as there were so many varieties of things. Godzilla, Black Jack, Hatsune Miku, Snake from the Metal Gear series, Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star, and many, many more. They have a gift store, too, with figures available to buy, ranging in prices depending on the size. I know I saw some Yu-Gi-Oh figures and even some Marvel and DC ones. My friend bought a Shiga souvenir with Kirby on it. Surprisingly, there were also Hikonyan souvenirs there.

j.jpg

After leaving the museum, we went to an exhibition of a variety of bonsai trees, which takes place every year in February. The exhibition was held in a traditional Japanese building that we first had to walk through a beautiful garden to reach. The hallways filled with a very sweet smell from the bonsai trees, making the experience all the more pleasant. They had small trees, the blossoms of those seeming too big for trees of that size, but lovely all the same. They had big trees, too, one of which had a whole pond in its display. Watching the blossoms from the wide-reaching branches drift down and land in the water below was very soothing. I fell in love with that tree. I also adored the twisting and seemingly hollowed bark of many of the other trees.

IMG_3132.jpg

My roommate and I immediately knew we had to come back to Nagahama and explore more of it.

Author : Colleen O'Keefe

Сига, Япония

IMG_1899.JPGСегодня я расскажу о трех достопримечательностях префектуры Сига (Shiga prefecture), Япония.

Префектура Сига расположена в центральной части основного острова Японского архипелага, острова Хонсю. Известна префектура Сига, в первую очередь, тем, что на её территории находиться озеро Бива (Biwa lake) - самое большое озеро в Японии.

В статье речь пойдет о трех изумительных местах восточного побережья озера Бива: синтоистском храмовом комплексе Taga Taisha, пещере Kawachi no Kazaana и буддийском храме Kongourinji.

IMG_1724.JPG

Храм Тага (Taga Taisha ) расположен в одноименном городе Тага и является самым большим синтоистским храмом префектуры Сига, посвященный богам Изанаги и Изанами. Храмовый комплекс кроме непосредственно главного храма включает многочисленные постройки: памятники истории, 14 средних и малых храмов, места отдыха и т.д. Рядом с основными воротами храмового комплекса Тага расположена торговая улочка с местными сувенирными магазинами, кафе и ресторанами. На территории комплекса протекает речка, разбит живописный традиционный японский сад, растут многовековые японские криптомерии, деревья сакуры и японские клены. Весной в конце марта - начале апреля можно любоваться расцветшей сакурой, и во второй половине ноября огненно-красными кленами. Храм пользуется большой популярностью у местных жителей, сюда приходят помолиться, купить обереги-омамори, здесь проводят различные религиозные обряды, свадебные церемонии. В храмовом комплексе организуют местные фестивали-мацури, основные из которых приходятся на 3 января (фестиваль, посвященный празднованию начала нового года), 22 апреля (Тага мацури, главный фестиваль храма), первая неделя июня (празднование первых посевов риса), 3-5 августа (фестиваль бумажных фонарей). Храм Тага ассоциируется с удачей, долголетием и успешным браком. В храме есть лавка сувениров, где можно приобрести различные обереги-омамори, в том числе, пользующиеся популярностью среди молодых людей, обереги удачного брака. На территории комплекса также расположен музей-галерея, представлены к обозрению комнаты традиционного японского дома эпохи Эдо. Храм наполнен солнечной энергией, жизнерадостной атмосферой, в нем витает чувства воодушевления и созидания.

IMG_1828.JPGСледующая на очереди достопримечательность - пещера Kawachi no Kazaana. Это очень необычное место, расположенное в отдалении от населенных пунктов, высоко в горах. Чтобы пройти непосредственно к пещере надо подняться вверх по горной тропе. Прогулка не очень утомительная, пейзажи гор с густым лесом завораживают, а горная речушку, пролегающая по маршруту, радует слух своим мелодичным журчанием. Нужно немного постараться, чтобы попасть в саму пещеру, так как, вход в нее всего 1 метр в высоту. Температура в самой пещере, в которую никогда не попадают солнечные лучи, не превышает 12 градусов по Цельсию, поэтому запаситесь теплой кофтой или курткой для поездки к этому удивительному месту. Внутри пещеры проведено искусственное освещение, прохладно и влажно. Сама пещера представляет собой природное вулканическое углубление в горе площадью 1544 м².

IMG_1895.JPG

Еще одна пользующаяся популярностью достопримечательность префектуры Сига - буддийский храм Kongourinji. История его создания уходит в далекий VIII-ой век н.э. Храм входит в тройку храмов Koto Sanzan, религиозного направления Tendai. Храм занимает большую территорию, на которой разбит японский сад с традиционным японским прудом, мостиками и переходами. В пруду плавают священные карпы и цветут лилии. Основной храм расположен на небольшой возвышенности, к которой ведут каменные ступени. При подъеме вашими спутниками будут сотни каменных маленьких будд, расположенных по обеим сторонам дороги, начиная с подножия и до самой вершины лестницы. Они указывают вам путь в храм и охраняют ваше продвижение. На вершине вы будете вознаграждены незабываемыми видами на храм Kongourinji, который производит впечатление как снаружи, так и внутри, а также многовековой трехэтажной пагодой, построенной в XIII столетии. Храм славиться большим количеством японских кленов, растущих на всей его территории. В сезон "момидзи" - любование осенней листвой (середина-вторая половина ноября) вся территория храма превращается в пылающее буйство красок с неописуемыми пейзажами.

(Author : Herashchanka Alena, びわ湖花街道)

125986_20150210163758308.jpg

Day 3 - 70km - Makino to Maibara via Lake Yogo

I woke early once again on my final day and went down to the beach for a morning swim. The freshwater was incredibly refreshing andset me in a good mood to start the last leg of the journey.

10369.jpg

I set off after a hearty breakfast towards the hills of Northern Shiga. The first section was spectacular; skirting around the dramatic hills jutting out into the lake. When I reached the upper Eastern corner of the lake, I had the option to head a little further North to explore the secluded lake Yogo. This turned out to be a very pleasant part of the journey as it is tucked away from busy roads and residential areas and I highly recommended this peaceful spot to anyone who visits the area.

12402 (1).jpg

I then followed the coastline South through Nagahama city and then on to Maibara. The Nagahama castle, located a few minutes walk from Nagahama station, is well worth a visit and was my final stop before returning to Maibara at the end of my journey.

12182.jpg

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of cycling a loop around lake Biwa. I feel that it offered great variety from the cultural sites in the East to the rolling rice fields in the West and the dynamic landscape of the North. I'd love to try it again in the future especially during the cherry blossom or Autumn colours seasons as I think seeing it at a different time of year would really enhance the journey!

(Author : Simon Richards, Audley Travel)

Day 2 - 100km - Moriyama to Makino

I rose early with excitement and continued South past the city of Kusatsu. This was the first section of the trip where I could truly see the opposite side of the lake from the shore as I was in the slimmest part in the South. I crossed the Setagawa Bridge at the Southern point of the lake and pressed on up the other side through Otsu city. This was the most built-up section of the trip so was not necessarily the most attractive however, the Ukimido or 'floating temple' was a pleasant surprise and felt like a real hidden gem.

13662.jpg

I eventually escaped the urban sprawl of Otsu city and soon found myself in the multi-coloured rice paddies scattered around Wani and Hira on the Eastern banks. This was a particularly enjoyable part of the ride as I could just get my head down and focus on the ride without worrying about traffic. The further North I went, the more impressive the scenery was.

13674.jpg

The Shirahige shrine was my next stop, which is a red tori gate that stands in Lake Biwa about 30 metres from the coast. The gate itself attracted lots of visitors all posing for photos from the shore but I took a stroll around the area, stumbled across the Iwato-sha shrine in the foothills of the mountains, and took refuge there from a sudden downpour. It was a well-needed rest and extremely atmospheric so I would recommend anyone visiting to look around the surrounding area.

129_青と赤.jpg

The remaining 20km to Makino largely consisted of the city of Takashima, which was home to some lovely old-style backstreets away from the main road. Upon arriving at my hotel on the lakeshore, I was so tired I headed straight to the property's private beach and lay down to enjoy the sun setting behind me and reflecting off the lake.

Read next article - Day 3 here

IMG_20180820_100040.jpgOn a Monday morning in late August, I boarded the bullet train at Nagoya and travelled to Maibara station on the Eastern side of the massive Lake Biwa. There was a dramatic change in scenery from the urban sprawl of Nagoya to the distinctive rice fields and hills of Shiga prefecture. Upon my arrival to Maibara station, I was met by the friendly faces of the Biwaichi rental cycle Maibara branch team, quickly sized up for a bicycle and sent on my way on my three-day 240km journey around Lake Biwa.

Day 1 - 70km - Maibara to Moriyama

From my research, it seemed that the first stretch of my trip would be the best for sightseeing with Hikone castle and Omi-Hachiman between me and my first overnight stop in Moriyama. This section of the journey is usually around 55-60km if you follow the coastline of the lake but I was determined to see both sites on my way so I did take detours to go see them.

After setting off Westwards from Maibara station, I was soon greeted by the vast expanse of Lake Biwa and the epic scale of the lake soon dawned on me. I followed the coast to the South while keeping an eye out for signs for Hikone castle. From a distance, I soon noticed Hikone castle towering above the town of Hikone so I parked my bike and had a look around the impressive structure.

彦根城.jpg

I continued to follow the coastline for another 25km before arriving into Omi-Hachiman. This charming canal town gives a real flavour of old Japan and parts of it reminded me of the Gion geisha district of Kyoto but with significantly fewer tourists. I planned to take the Hachimanyama ropeway up to Mt. Hachiman to try getting some views of the area but I was conscious that I might run out of sunlight before arriving in Moriyama so I continued onwards.

八幡堀 (2).JPG

For the remainder of the day, I followed the wavy contours of the lake crossing bridges of canals as they met the mighty Biwako. As successful first day in the saddle!

Read next article - Day 2 here

Read next article - Day 3 here

A day in Omihachiman

j-1.jpgIf you're looking to absorb some beautiful views, experience the peace at local temples and eat some amazing locally grown food, then a visit to Omihachiman is exactly what you need.

This time of year, in mid-late November/early December, is the perfect time to go since all of the leaves are turning stunning colours. I was really amazed at how vibrant the colours could be and there were lots of photo opportunities.

j-2.jpgAt Azuchichoishidera, the setting is so serene because the temple is surrounded by trees. First, you walk through the woods, taking in the beautiful leaves and listening to the birds singing. The path winds up to a vantage point that allows you to look down into the clearing where one of the temple buildings is nestled between the trees.

Following the path down leads you there. Inside is the shrine to the deities, and if you want to, you can write your wishes or prayers on a stick or can pray there. The path continues onwards to another temple building where you can sit and view the garden from inside. Before you reach it, the path guides you past a water feature, dripping water into a basin with a bamboo shoot beside it. If you put your ear to the shoot, you can listen to the sound of water dripping. I was surprised at the sound that I heard since it sounded like chimes!

Inside, there is a viewing window which creates a lovely frame for a photograph. Lots of people had the same idea and there was a little queue to take a picture but it was worth it!

I also visited Hyakusakiji. This was really fun because there is a walkway across the water and you can feed the fish too. The scenery here is really beautiful, it's like a little adventure walking up the little pathways. There are some stairs here but it's easy enough to get up to the top. If the weather treats you as well as it did me, then on the way up there is a really good vantage point to look out on a view over the countryside and city.

Inside the temple building at the top of the hill, there are interesting stories about historical figures in the religion. There are also miniatures of the hillside and the temple buildings which were really cool to look at.

I had been wanting to ring a temple bell, ever since arriving in Japan and I finally got my chance at Hyakusaiji. There's a bell that can be rung by visitors and it was certainly a highlight to my visit. Both temples weren't crowded and there was ample time and opportunity to dwell or move as the mood takes you!

PC010033.JPG

For lunch, stop at Aito Margaret Station Rest Area. They have a buffet style meal with a lot of different foods to try, all local produce. I tried a bit of everything and really enjoyed it all - my favourites were tempura vegetables, fried chicken and a thai curry but it was hard to narrow it down to just three top picks! There's also a shop there and after lunch, why not take a stroll through the fields of flowers - I wandered through the rows of sunflowers in December!

IMG_2388.JPG

I really enjoyed walking around the temples, taking pictures and eating amazing food and I recommend it to anyone who wants to enjoy the beauty that Omihachiman has to offer.

(Author : Joeley Beckett, ALT teacher in Shiga)

Special Thanks to Interac Inc.,

w200_interac.jpg

Ishinodera and Hyakusaiji

tom.JPGI am so glad that I decided to join Saturday's trip to Omihachiman. I was concerned that I was going to miss the fall colors because I had gotten sick and missed a trip to Kyoto, but I can clearly see now that Shiga prefecture is just as exquisitely colorful.

To begin, I'd like to give my thoughts on Ishinodera. What I was first struck by was the autumn-colored canopy visible just beyond the gate, which was also walled off by a row of rose bushes. I really couldn't help taking a photo, the colors provided the landscape with so much warmth and vibrance. As we continued circling the complex, I was captivated by the deep red of the maples overhead. The other features of the temple complimented them well, as there were green moss-covered rocks below to contrast them splendidly. I always enjoy the roof architecture of temples as well, particularly the terracotta roof tiles; I enjoyed them all the more with the maple leaves lightly adorning them. What really made this place memorable was the window looking out onto the small pond from inside the temple. While you do have to wait for people to clear the way, it is the perfect angle to look out at the autumn foliage with the reflection of the pond to add to the beauty as well.

PC010007.JPG

Next, I will be discussing Hyakusaiji. What particularly stood out to me at this temple was the walk way going through the koi pond. It added a bit of entertainment to my visit since it had me stepping from stone step to stone step separated by the pond itself. The steps are within a safe distance from each other, so it doesn't present too difficult of a challenge for lesser-able people to use, and really provides a sense of immersion with the aesthetic of the pond. I even got to ring an enormous bell, not something I get to do often, and it was very satisfying. Finally, I got to see the very famous staircase leading up into the temple. I had seen a photo of the staircase during autumn in a collage of the four seasons in my dorm, and since I started studying here last September, I've idealized finding it. Truth be told, I had no idea I would be going to the staircase in that photo until I arrived at the temple. I am so glad I could experience such a quintessentially "kouyou" view.

PC010016.JPG

I would like to thank Shiga prefecture's tourism bureau for their kindness in allowing me to come along for this trip. I had come to Japan not only to study, but to experience the culture; specifically I sought to see Japan's take on fall, and I really felt as though these two temples had exactly that to offer.

(Author : Tom Charney from US, The Japan Center for Michigan Universities)